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Kate Ogg and Susan Harris Rimmer
For feminist international law scholars, practitioners and advocates, the first two decades of the new Millennium have produced moments of elation and disenchantment. It has been the best and worst of times, in the truly Dickensian sense. With respect to international law victories for women, there have been successful campaigns to further entrench women’s rights in international and regional instruments. For example, in 2002 the Rome Statute came into force, which includes sexual violence in the definition of a crime against humanity. The Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence came into force in 2003 and 2014 respectively. Women’s achievements in the international sphere have been recognised and celebrated: since the turn of this century, seven women have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for work relating to peace-building, democracy and human rights. International institutions have demonstrated greater awareness of and commitment to women’s rights and empowerment. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the United Nation’s (UN) eight resolutions on women, peace and security adopted between 2000 and 2015. Another institutional highlight was the creation of UN Women in 2010 – an organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. In some quarters of the academic community, there has been optimism about feminist international legal scholarship’s growth and potential for influence. Yet alongside these and other successes, the first two decades of the new millennium have also provided reasons for despair.
Ladies and Gentlemen! First of all, I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this important programme, and it is indeed a pleasure for me to speak in this timely programme. Secondly, I would like to mention that I am not a lawyer, and do not even have an academic background in any sector. I am simply a medical doctor and have lived in a male-dominated society that is poverty driven and is in a continued conflict situation. I have experienced discrimination based on my sex, ethnicity and the religion that my family practised. In order to survive such a situation, I chose and continued to fight for equality and human rights in Afghanistan. My talk today is based on my personal experience in a country where human rights abuse and violation is our daily scenario, sometimes even unnoticed. Afghanistan is a country that suffers from four decades of war; almost the majority of the powerful countries in the world are somehow involved in the conflict. Different regimes have come and gone, each one of them violated the human rights of the people, particularly the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups including the rights of minorities.
Firstly, I would like to express my appreciation of the initiative to organize this convening. It is a timely endeavor, one that calls upon us to look up from our daily routines and reflect on our journey. Thank you for including me in this conversation. My contribution to our discussion will reflect the specific nature of my engagement with the law and lawmaking. Firstly, I am not a lawyer. I am trained in the social sciences and have spent most of my energy growing movements in the fields of women’s rights, human rights, social justice and progressive Islam. In this context, I have been engaged with efforts to reform the law in a time of political transition through a national mechanism for women’s human rights in Indonesia; to use law as a tool of change through a regional network on women, law and development in Asia Pacific; and, to report on discrimination against women in law and practice through a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council. Before discussing the specific questions for this convening, another set of questions needs our attention. They speak to our particular historical moment today. I’d like us to begin with a sober acknowledgement of this age of uncertainty. A Japanese historian, Takashi Shiraishi, wrote a book in 1990 describing a period during my country’s colonial past, in the early decades of the 1900s, when a new consciousness was spreading, which eventually led to nationalist struggle for a sovereign Nation-State that is now Indonesia.